ATSB’s report on the Sydney-Melbourne railway line

 
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting for the sky to fall, the seas to rise... and seeing a train on the SSFL!
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has now completed this long awaited investigation.


http://www.atsb.gov.au/newsroom/news-items/2013/sydney-melbourne-railway-line.aspx

http://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2011/rair/ri-2011-015.aspx

ARTC's response

http://www.artc.com.au/Article/Detail.aspx?p=6&id=408


It does prove that you can't let something go for decades and expect it to be fixed cheap and quickly Shocked

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  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
We were right. It's buggered.
  Newcastle Express Chief Commissioner

And it should be a lesson to the Turnball & then Liberals about the National Broadband Network.

Doing it cheaply equals spending more on maintaining and fixing problems that may arise. Spending more to do it properly will save money in the long run.

Hold on a minute!

“While the ATSB has outlined some areas that require attention by ARTC, we are pleased that no systemic issues were found that might compromise the safety of rail operations where the track quality was below standard,” Mr Fullerton said.

“The ATSB has indicated the program we are applying to the track will correct most fouled ballast and drainage problems, and ARTC will be reviewing the report to identify any further measures that might need to be considered or applied to our current program of works.
ARTC
But didn't a train derailment happen that may have been caused by this?

And will correct most, instead of all??

Some of those Rail Reports have either RO, RI or RE, etc. R is obviously rail, but would the O, I & E stand for after the R?
  jcouch Assistant Commissioner

Location: Asleep on a commuter train
Note the preceding words that you missed "no systemic issues" leading to accidents. There's always going to be accidents, it's a matter of judging the cost versus risk of the different types. They've basically looked at things and decided that procedurally and management-wise they don't see any problems that need addressing.  

It is also interesting ARTC's spin on it that basically comes down to "side insertion wasn't causing the problems, So There!"  while quietly sweeping under the fact that they're not spending money on the root cause. Wallpapering over the wall cracks is OK - ATSB said so!!!!  Confused
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
Note the preceding words that you missed "no systemic issues" leading to accidents. There's always going to be accidents, it's a matter of judging the cost versus risk of the different types. They've basically looked at things and decided that procedurally and management-wise they don't see any problems that need addressing.  

It is also interesting ARTC's spin on it that basically comes down to "side insertion wasn't causing the problems, So There!"  while quietly sweeping under the fact that they're not spending money on the root cause. Wallpapering over the wall cracks is OK - ATSB said so!!!!  Confused
jcouch
Where would the ATSB have got the information needed to write this report from?
  jcouch Assistant Commissioner

Location: Asleep on a commuter train
In my experience in the aviation industry - they ask a lot of people questions, not just a few - from pilots to LAMEs to the operating company themselves. I could wildly speculate just who they asked here, but it would be more than just a couple of head honchos in charge of the ARTC. ATSB have been pretty good when I've seen them in action with some aircraft stuff, so I'm going to run with my own experience and say I have enough confidence in what they've done here to not dismiss it at first pass. I'm not out to convince anyone else of that, just to pass on my personal experience.  

The detailed report is quite an interesting read if you haven't yet done that. They're basically pointing out that the only way to fix this is to spend big money fixing the root cause - track foundations. Effectively what they have said is that it doesn't really matter what technique was used to do sleeper replacement - it could have been two guys with large hammers and a bullock team - none of this helped or deteriorated track quality in any significant way. The actual problem is located below the ballast. Hence my comment above on the spin that ARTC put on this....
  crisfitz Chief Commissioner

Location: Enroute somewhere
Where would the ATSB have got the information needed to write this report from?
MD
Read page 100 and 101 of the report. All sources and documents listed.
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
It doesn't by any stretch let ARTC fully of the hook. In the case of Victoria ARTC had control of the track for 9 years prior to the start of the concrete sleepering. As the infrastructure manager it should have had a very detailed understanding of the track and all its inherent issues regarding condition and depth of ballast, formation performance etc. There would have be nothing wrong with using the side insertion technique if the depth of ballast was there to accommodate the greater depth of concrete sleepers. It took ARTC if I read the report correctly 3 if not 4 amendments to the process to get it right. So how did they get it so wrong. It will be a huge legacy issue going forward and will without doubt have cost more than doing it properly. Look at Tasrail. They transformed a track in deplorable condition at very modest cost. No they are concrete sleepering selected priority areas. ARTC could have adopted the same approach. Rehabilitated the best of the existing track at relatively low cost and rebuilt the problematic areas and concrete sleepered those with complete treatment to the formation etc. Not as elegant but far more effective. In Victoria with former broad gauge track there was the opportunity to fully rehabilitate that whilst it was closed add in the intermediate crossovers etc. Transfer operations during the day to the western line to enable a more thorough rehab of the original std gauge line. It will now cost billions to effectively rebuild the line. That won't happen and we can sit and watch b triples swamp the Hume instead.
  Watson374 Chief Commissioner

Location: Fully reclined at the pointy end.
Still, Tasmania's rail network doesn't do much more than light freight. I'm more interested in what Queensland pulled off.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
When Victoria's RFR project was undertaken in 2004/5 the whole of my line (Ballarat) where concrete sleepers were replacing timber sleepers for the 160kph sections of the track and on the re-canted curves, the road bed was taken back to bedrock and the track drainage was reinstated before the new ballast and sleepers and rails were laid down. I have photographic evidence to that effect, and the same track standard is being undertaken with the currently being constructed Regional Rail Link. The almost complete absence of mudholes on the Ballarat lines compared to the NE is a stark contrast.

This has always been the problem with the cheap and under resourced ARTC way of 'upgrading' the NE line and now we'll have to live with the increased truck traffic on the Hume because it appears the railway is stuffed and the problem of multi-mudholes in the same sections of track will return time and time again, year in year out and track speed restrictions and pax train times comparable or worse with those of 80+ years ago will be an ongoing fact of life.

A good analogy was written further up this page, and that's the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd NBN will always be better because it was done properly in the first place, than the Abbott cheaper plan of fibre optic to a refrigerator sized, graffiti covered green box at the end of ones street.
  Groundrelay Chief Commissioner

Location: Surrounded by Trolls!
When Victoria's RFR project was undertaken in 2004/5 the whole of my line (Ballarat) where concrete sleepers were replacing timber sleepers for the 160kph sections of the track and on the re-canted curves, the road bed was taken back to bedrock and the track drainage was reinstated before the new ballast and sleepers and rails were laid down. I have photographic evidence to that effect, and the same track standard is being undertaken with the currently being constructed Regional Rail Link. The almost complete absence of mudholes on the Ballarat lines compared to the NE is a stark contrast.

This has always been the problem with the cheap and under resourced ARTC way of 'upgrading' the NE line and now we'll have to live with the increased truck traffic on the Hume because it appears the railway is stuffed and the problem of multi-mudholes in the same sections of track will return time and time again, year in year out and track speed restrictions and pax train times comparable or worse with those of 80+ years ago will be an ongoing fact of life.

A good analogy was written further up this page, and that's the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd NBN will always be better because it was done properly in the first place, than the Abbott cheaper plan of fibre optic to a refrigerator sized, graffiti covered green box at the end of ones street.
The Vinelander

It goes back to how ARTC was set up to start with. Expected to be a commercial enterprise (not a Not for Profit like state authorities).
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting for the sky to fall, the seas to rise... and seeing a train on the SSFL!
...
The detailed report is quite an interesting read if you haven't yet done that. They're basically pointing out that the only way to fix this is to spend big money fixing the root cause - track foundations. Effectively what they have said is that it doesn't really matter what technique was used to do sleeper replacement - it could have been two guys with large hammers and a bullock team - none of this helped or deteriorated track quality in any significant way. The actual problem is located below the ballast. Hence my comment above on the spin that ARTC put on this....
jcouch

Well put.

Fact is most of the Eastern network (around 4000kms) needed rebuilding from the ground up but NO ONE was putting up the $$$ for that - sleepers, ballast, drainage, culverts/bridges etc. As Groundrelay points out ARTC wasn't just another NFP. It was established to stretch every dollar and provide guvmnts with dividends. Easy could'a, should'a, would'a simply ignores the reality that ARTC faced.

Clearly in 2004 the situation when ARTC took up with the NSW Lease seemed anyone's guess...

"...the condition of main-line routes reflected the maintenance of rail corridors that were "typically designed and constructed before 1960 (and frequently before 1930)". The report also observed that "In each state where ARTC had assumed control of the rail asset, substantial deficiencies in safety critical components had been identified. It is likely NSW will also contain undetected infrastructure flaws which impact on rail safety."

http://www.otsi.nsw.gov.au/rail/IR-Bethungra-final.pdf

And people casting nasturtiums on ATSB is hardly surprising Rolling Eyes
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
On a slightly differant issue, but somewhat related to the above , does the XPT run at 160 kmh in Victoria
on the new track, or is it still restricted to 130 kmh.
If its still 130 kmh , why is this?
Also, does the XPT run at 160 kmh in Queensland?
  M636C Minister for Railways


Some of those Rail Reports have either RO, RI or RE, etc. R is obviously rail, but would the O, I & E stand for after the R?
Newcastle Express

It appears that "I" stands for "Investigation" since that series are called that.

There were also summaries of incidents that were in the RR series where the "R" might be "Research"

M636C
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
In Page 93 of the ATSBs report this line appears.

It is
not a function of the ATSB to apportion blame or determine liability.

Which is fair enough, as the ATSB is merely an investigatory body.

The issue is whose function is it to apportion blame or determine liability
in a railway safety matter?
If for example , ARTC was in someway negligent or used innapropriate measures in relation to
the track upgrading, who would determine this?
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting for the sky to fall, the seas to rise... and seeing a train on the SSFL!
In Page 93 of the ATSBs report this line appears.

It is
not a function of the ATSB to apportion blame or determine liability.

Which is fair enough, as the ATSB is merely an investigatory body.

The issue is whose function is it to apportion blame or determine liability
in a railway safety matter?
If for example , ARTC was in someway negligent or used innapropriate measures in relation to
the track upgrading, who would determine this?
MD

Yep ATSB does the investigation. You would be aware that with aviation were ATSB conducts most of it's investigations and  recommendations may be made to CASA.

For rail from this year The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) would be the CASA equivalent.
http://www.onrsr.com.au/

Anyone else could take ARTC to court if they thought they had a case.

However, you would have read that... "Taken as a whole, the ATSB is satisfied that the necessary steps have been taken to address any issues that might otherwise compromise the safety of rail operations where track quality is below acceptable operational standards. However, the actions taken to ensure safe operations have come at the expense of operational efficiencies through increased train running times."
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
But didn't a train derailment happen that may have been caused by this?
"Newcastle Express"
Depending on what you mean by "this" - not that I am aware of.  There was an derailment off the new Wodonga bypass in 2010, but that was caused by a rolling stock issue.  There have been train partings where track condition may have contributed to the parting, but for some of those partings at least there were more significant contributing factors.

If you go back in time you will find derailments caused, in part, by poor sleeper condition.  Installing concrete sleepers addresses that.

If for example , ARTC was in someway negligent or used innapropriate measures in relation to the track upgrading, who would determine this?
MD
If there may have been a breach of regulations or laws, the relevant regulator (which one depends on specifics) would take the company and/or its directors and/or executives to court.

If it is just a commercial issue between ARTC and an operator, then the access agreement between ARTC and the operator sets out limits and an approach towards determining liabilities and a dispute resolution process.


Yep ATSB does the investigation. You would be aware that with aviation were ATSB conducts most of it's investigations and  recommendations may be made to CASA.
cootanee
They may make recommendations to whoever they choose, not just the regulators.  There's no legal requirement for the recipient of the recommendation to actually follow the recommendation, but the response of the recipient to the recommendation is made public.


It goes back to how ARTC was set up to start with. Expected to be a commercial enterprise (not a Not for Profit like state authorities).
GroundRelay
I don't see how that is relevant at all to either a) the pre-existing condition of the track, or b) the funds made available through grants for upgrades and repairs.  ARTC is clearly not a short or medium term commercial proposition.  The set-up as a federal-owned corporation is for transparency (it is easier to understand how much money is being collected and spent across the network) and to give the rail industry as a whole more control over the network.

Some of the comments in this thread indicate a lack of understanding about the financial and operational constraints associated with the interstate rail network.  There isn't a magical money tree; and nor should there be.
  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

When Victoria's RFR project was undertaken in 2004/5 the whole of my line (Ballarat) where concrete sleepers were replacing timber sleepers for the 160kph sections of the track and on the re-canted curves, the road bed was taken back to bedrock and the track drainage was reinstated before the new ballast and sleepers and rails were laid down. I have photographic evidence to that effect, and the same track standard is being undertaken with the currently being constructed Regional Rail Link. The almost complete absence of mudholes on the Ballarat lines compared to the NE is a stark contrast.

This has always been the problem with the cheap and under resourced ARTC way of 'upgrading' the NE line and now we'll have to live with the increased truck traffic on the Hume because it appears the railway is stuffed and the problem of multi-mudholes in the same sections of track will return time and time again, year in year out and track speed restrictions and pax train times comparable or worse with those of 80+ years ago will be an ongoing fact of life.

A good analogy was written further up this page, and that's the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd NBN will always be better because it was done properly in the first place, than the Abbott cheaper plan of fibre optic to a refrigerator sized, graffiti covered green box at the end of ones street.
The Vinelander
Which proves the money spent on the Ballarat line as BG only was a complete waste of money and obviously political pork barreling.
  Groundrelay Chief Commissioner

Location: Surrounded by Trolls!
Depending on what you mean by "this" - not that I am aware of.  There was an derailment off the new Wodonga bypass in 2010, but that was caused by a rolling stock issue.  There have been train partings where track condition may have contributed to the parting, but for some of those partings at least there were more significant contributing factors.

If you go back in time you will find derailments caused, in part, by poor sleeper condition.  Installing concrete sleepers addresses that...
donttellmywife

1. After Wodonga there were some who tried to blame it on mudholes Rolling Eyes

2. It was all about those rotting sleepers. Several derailments in NSW, the ITSR investigation into RIC steel sleeper program and heat restrictions all too common which finally saw Vline terminating its rail services at Wangaratta. Noting the best RIC could do in NSW was paint rails white and throw in the odd steel and low profile concrete sleepers, meanwhile those timber sleepers which held most of the track together continued to deteriorate.

The original ARTC strategy and funding was to only concrete sleeper tighter curves between Brisbane and Melbourne. Faced with what they now inherited wholesale replacement was the only realistic alternative however unaffordable. Some may recall how ARTC went to market to drive down cost of concrete sleepers to be competitive with timber. This was also something digestible for government to fund. The then LNP minister signed off on that first contract which coincidentally saw factories in three L/NP regional electorates produce those sleepers. Subsequently ARTC convinced both the LNP and Labor governments to fund further procurements.
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
Earlier in this thread I made reference that given ARTC's limited funding to FULLY REHABILITATE the corridor it should have seriously considered rehabilitating the best sections of the existing corridor and focussed on full rebuilding (subgrade drainage etc) with concrete sleepers to get maximum benefit.

Earlier, I referred to this approach being adopted in Tasmania and if local NSW railpagers recall this was also done to a similar extent on the North Coast, some parts of the Main South and the Main West in the late 1980's/19990's.

Looking at the Tasmanian thread today is the following entry: "I do believe that I saw a gathering of concrete sleepers next to the line at Spreyton behind the Racecourse.  They have only recently finished work in this area after they cleaned the ballast, they undertook large scale drainage work".

It doesn't matter whether your in Tasmania, WA, Victoria, NSW or in the middle of the Nullabor, successful concrete sleepering programs right back to the 1970's have consistently included a careful focus on the drainage, ballast depth and condition etc and very clearly the
ATSB report validates that.  How on earth ARTC somehow "thought" it could address ballast, drainage and sub grade works after resleepering is amazing.   The ATSB report clearly shows that the quality of the track deteriorated immediately after concrete resleepering works commenced, well before the rain arrived.  The simple answer should have been if they didn't get the funds they needed and that is not in dispute then they should have used value engineering approaches to spend that money to get the maximum benefit they could.  It would have been more challenging a program but the rail industry would not be saddled with a legacy that will put rail at a huge disadvantage at a time when it should be delivering the benefits of this investment.

It will also sour politicians and beuracrats attitudes towards making investments in rail infrastructure.
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting for the sky to fall, the seas to rise... and seeing a train on the SSFL!
Earlier in this thread I made reference that given ARTC's limited funding to FULLY REHABILITATE the corridor it should have seriously considered rehabilitating the best sections of the existing corridor and focussed on full rebuilding (subgrade drainage etc) with concrete sleepers to get maximum benefit.

Earlier, I referred to this approach being adopted in Tasmania and if local NSW railpagers recall this was also done to a similar extent on the North Coast, some parts of the Main South and the Main West in the late 1980's/19990's.

Looking at the Tasmanian thread today is the following entry: "I do believe that I saw a gathering of concrete sleepers next to the line at Spreyton behind the Racecourse.  They have only recently finished work in this area after they cleaned the ballast, they undertook large scale drainage work".

It doesn't matter whether your in Tasmania, WA, Victoria, NSW or in the middle of the Nullabor, successful concrete sleepering programs right back to the 1970's have consistently included a careful focus on the drainage, ballast depth and condition etc and very clearly the
ATSB report validates that.  How on earth ARTC somehow "thought" it could address ballast, drainage and sub grade works after resleepering is amazing.   The ATSB report clearly shows that the quality of the track deteriorated immediately after concrete resleepering works commenced, well before the rain arrived.  The simple answer should have been if they didn't get the funds they needed and that is not in dispute then they should have used value engineering approaches to spend that money to get the maximum benefit they could.  It would have been more challenging a program but the rail industry would not be saddled with a legacy that will put rail at a huge disadvantage at a time when it should be delivering the benefits of this investment.

It will also sour politicians and beuracrats attitudes towards making investments in rail infrastructure.
Trainplanner

Most of the Eastern network including Melb-Adel and Cootamundra-Broken Hill was at or soon would need rebuilding from the ground up. A situation that seemed poorly quantified in 2004 going by those ITSR reports.

Rail was already saddled with a legacy from under investment aside from track condition e.g. lack of long passing loops, antiquated signalling and control systems and bridges with severe speed restrictions all of which ARTC would have to address.

As you seem aware ARTC was never funded to do the sort of wide scale in depth work necessary. However it's hard to see how value engineering was practical given the continued deterioration of a network already under significant restrictions against the vague funding arrangements it operated under.

It's easy to be overly negative about the situation as it now stands. Back in 2004 few would have thought that within a decade the entire network would have concrete sleepers only and much of it 60kg rails. There was no indication when the Wagga Wagga Bridge would be replaced, if passing loops would be built/extended or when CTC would be extended up north. There's much work to be done and ARTC is working through that with what funding is available.

ARTC as a commercial profit making entity was fundamentally the wrong model for a rail system that needed a hell of a lot of work in a hurry.
  MD Chief Commissioner

Location: Canbera
The issue here that everyone is conveniently leaving out , is that ARTC as an incorporated Company is free
to raise capital in any way it sees fit , including raising Track Access charges, which it seems it doesnt want to do.
As a similar example, the electricity industry, when needing to upgrade the electricity distribution system , simply increases
everyones electricity bills to raise the capital.
Its unreasonable to expect that the users of ARTCs network, dont have to in any way contribute to the cost of upgrading the
track infrastructure.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Perhaps the users of the network already contribute?  Road users pay a registration fee and have their taxes poured into projects which do not provide a very good return.  ARTC does need other sources of funding for capital projects.  My question is are we getting the best value for money when ARTC manages projects?  We seem to pay a high price for rail construction in this country compared to the USA??

Regards
Brian
  BDA Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
Hmm , much of it 60 kg rail . I wonder how much ...
The whole network on concrete sleepers , the Bethungra Junee section on the down is only just being finished now .
I think everybody remembers ARTC crowing that they got the price of concrete sleepers down to that of wood if they bought enough of them . I bet they didn't tell their mentors bean counters about the result of the lift and shove once the termite proof ties were in .
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting for the sky to fall, the seas to rise... and seeing a train on the SSFL!
The issue here that everyone is conveniently leaving out , is that ARTC as an incorporated Company is free
to raise capital in any way it sees fit , including raising Track Access charges, which it seems it doesnt want to do.
As a similar example, the electricity industry, when needing to upgrade the electricity distribution system , simply increases
everyones electricity bills to raise the capital.
Its unreasonable to expect that the users of ARTCs network, dont have to in any way contribute to the cost of upgrading the
track infrastructure.
MD

That is somewhat simplistic. Even though it is a corporation;

ARTC is still answerable to... guess who!
The board members are appointed by... guess who!
The books are audited by... guess who!

ARTC does indeed raise capital from the market. This included (from 2012 annual report):


- $550m Syndicated Debt involving a consortium of Australian Banks
- $750m Short to Medium Term Notes programme
- $200m Bond Issue

However borrowings are limited they have to be repaid and incur costs (interest).

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